13 Nov 2013

The 2013 Essential Guide to Mobile App for Businesses

Article on - The 2013 Essential Guide to Mobile App for Businesses

According to the Adobe 2013 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey, with analysis carried out by Econsultancy, almost half (46%) of businesses still do not have a mobile-optimized site or app.

This new survey, which received global responses from more than 1,800 digital marketers across Asia, Europe and North America, also reported that only 7% of businesses have built mobile apps. Around a fifth (21%) has implemented both a mobile-optimized site and a mobile app.

In 2013, it is quite clear that the old debate of choosing between a mobile site versus a mobile app is over.

Most marketers now accepts that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The decision should be based on the user journey and business needs of individual companies. It is likely that both approaches are needed to cater to the different parts of a user journey to conversion.

However, a new report from Compuware suggests that consumer preference is strongly in favour of apps (85%) ahead of mobile sites.

The most common reasons for this is that apps are seen to be more convenient (55%), faster (48%) and easier to browse (40%).

Mobile Apps Basics
In today's terms, mobile app generally refers to both native app and web app. The advances in smartphone browsers and HTML5 will close the functional gap between web app and native app in the near future.

For now, let's compare both native app and web app in order to build our mobile app strategy.

Native app refers to standalone software installed directly onto smartphone. These are apps we download from "app store". They are built for a single platform in the native programming language - Objective C (Apple iOS), Java (Android) or C# (WIndows Phone).

Web app, on the other hand, functions via web browsers on mobile devices. They are developed using web standards (HTML5, JavaScript, CSS3), which means that one version will work across multiple platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, Windows Mobile, etc.

The top 3 advantages of native app as compared to web app are as follows:
1. Native app can integrate comprehensively with smartphone hardware and can use phone features like calendarm contact, camera, notes, GPS locations and other hardware to improve user experience.

2. It is easier to deliver a slick experience using native app. For example, most games that deliver slick performance are built as native app.

3. Native app generally delivers a more consistent quality of experience due to the hardware support, and can be used when the phone has no signal.

As much as native app delivers these strong advantages, it is generally more costly to build, and has to be built separately for each platform (iOS, Android, Windows, etc). It may also take a longer time to develop your native app, and more costly to re-iterate and improve over time.

The Challenge
Once you have decided to adopt a mobile app strategy, consider these statistics before you rush to invest in and launch your new mobile app:
  • Most people have around 50 apps n their smart phones.
  • The majority of mobile apps, 65%, are not used less than 3 months after they are initially downloaded according to the latest study from Flurry Analytics.
  • On average, apps are used 3.7 times a week with user retention rates over a 30-day period standing at 54% on average, dropping to 54% after 60 days and then falling to 35% over 90 days according to the same study.
  • There are a huge number of apps out there. The market leaders, Apple and Android, have nearly 800,000 in their individual app stores. The Windows Phone Store now has over 150,000 and BlackBerry announced 70,000 apps at the BlackBerry 10 launch in January.
It is exciting to launch your first company app but the numbers are stacked against you. In the first place, can consumers discover your newly launched app, download it and use it regularly? And, can you ensure that the investment in the app generates better consumer engagement, and improves your business?

The Essential Ingredients For Your Mobile App Strategy
In order to have a higher chance of success when planning your mobile app strategy, consider these essential ingredients.

1. Develop a mobile app plan that includes a marketing strategy
A recent 2012 white paper by the Nielsen Company shows that app stores are the main channel people use to search for and buy their apps, but there are also ways to discover apps through mobile search. This means you will need to set up a mobile site that is optimized for search in order for users to discover you. When they reach your mobile site, you can promote your new mobile app to them.

2. Be original
In the crowded world of mobile apps, you stand a very slim chance of success unless you are really original. This means introducing a new-to-the-world app (which is really difficult to do), presenting an existing category of app in a new, unique way. Study existing apps in your category and identify weaknesses that you can improve upon.

3. Conduct private test of your app idea
Some businesses will choose to launch a private beta or prototype of their app to get immediate feedback and assess what their audience really wants before going to market. This ensures that you have immediate feedback before you launch your app to the general public.

4. Understand that consumers have high expectations of mobile apps.
Compuware's survey found that users have high expectations of mobile apps, with 42% of respondents stating that they expect them to load quicker than a mobile website. On average smartphone owners expect apps to load in two seconds, while 28% said that apps should load in one second or less. Don't underestimate this point. In addition, expect to see the bar being raised in terms of functionality and design, call it the "Instagram" effect.

5. Perform a competitor analysis
By researching competitors and finding out what's already on offer, businesses can see how their competitors are performing in the mobile space and also learn from their successes and downfalls. Downloading and playing with apps, as well as looking at app reviews, are great ways to understand the major pluses and negatives of the apps already on offer.

6. Beware of IP issues
The general rule is that copyright is owned by its author from the moment he/she writes the code - the exception being where the code is written by an employee in the course of their employment, in which case the employer will be the first owner of the copyright. A third party developer of your mobile app also owns the copyright even though you have paid for it. It is essential to work this IP issue out before app development begins. You can insist on taking assignment of all present and future rights in any work created by your developer.

The Future
The future for mobile app marketing is bright. The blruring of lines between web app and native apps means companies must be nimble to evaluate the right deployment tactic in app development. It is essential for businesses and the marketing community to keep track of the changes in the mobile landscape to better fit in their tactisc, and marketing professionals can keep abreast by following blogs on mobile trends, attending conferences or formal trainings.

Eu Gene Ang is the Director and Principal Trainer at eAcademy Asia Pte Ltd, a training academy that is the exclusive organizer for the world-class digital courses powered by Econsultancy UK.